Most job interviews are stressful.
15 former Canes went through what can only be imagined is one of the most intense and unorthodox “job interviews” they’ll ever experience as the University of Miami hosted its annual Pro Day at the Greentree Practice Field Wednesday afternoon.
Just about every NFL team was represented with multiple scouts – as well as a flip-flop clad Bill Belichick – as the players went through drills and conducted sit-down meetings with teams.
Unlike last year’s pro day, which had to be completed in pouring rain, Wednesday was a bright and sun-drenched day with typical South Florida temperatures climbing into the 90’s.
Head coach Mark Richt invited the players’ families to come out in support as well as opening the doors for former Hurricanes players to come support their “younger U brothers”.
Sean Spence, Artie Burns, Duke Johnson, Lamar Miller and Tracy Howard were some of the “Pro Canes” on hand – walking around, watching drills and interacting with current Miami coaches and players.
All of the players who participated Wednesday had their set of highlights from the day.
Tight end David Njoku showed off a chiseled physique on his 6-foot-4, 247-pound frame. Fellow tight end Stan Dobard showed off a trimmed down frame and impressed scouts with his work in blocking drills.
Jamal Carter improved on almost all of the workout numbers that he posted during the NFL combine.
Miami’s passing leader Brad Kaaya didn’t participate in any running drills Wednesday, but did look sharp during his throwing session – only missing on one throw and showing the ability to throw the ball accurately on the run.
Even punter Justin Vogel kept the scouts on the field when he began booming punts through the air towards the end of the day.
But it was senior receiver Malcolm Lewis, who cut off his dreadlocks and sported a low “Caesar” haircut, that was very impressive Wednesday.
In a drill that would typically be a time for the quarterback to shine – which Kaaya did – it was Lewis’ crisp route running, speed down the field and soft hands that drew big reactions from the crowd and impressed scouts.
A four-star recruit coming out of Miramar High School, Lewis appeared to set for a big career in a Hurricanes uniform before he suffered a gruesome ankle dislocation injury during his freshman season. Lewis worked his way back and ended up catching 62 passes for 649 yards and three touchdowns in his five seasons at UM.
After the season, Lewis said he – and former UM linebacker Jermaine Grace – went to Georgia to train in preparation for the pro day and April’s NFL Draft.
“We just wanted to get away from Miami and have tunnel vision – working to get better,” Lewis said. “I trained with Chip Smith…he’s been doing it for 30 years. He was the perfect guy for me. He improved my speed and my body control and got my body fat down, so I’m happy with how it all worked out.”
The training seemed to pay off.
On one deep route, Lewis jetted up the field and made a smooth over-the-shoulder catch, one supporter yelled out “get that money bag!” as he secured the ball and trotted into the endzone.
Marquez Williams also put together a noteworthy day. The fullback benched pressed 225 pounds 28 times – literally seconds after warming up by benching 315 pounds according to a source – and reportedly recorded a 38-inch vertical.
Williams, who was listed at 280 pounds on the Canes 2016 roster, said he dropped 20 pounds with offseason workouts and it showed as he also showed good movement and focus while catching the ball out of the backfield.
“I wanted to show [the scouts] that I could drop the weight and how well I could move,” Williams said. “I wanted to show them some of the things that I can do…I know that I’ll be contributing on special teams too, so I wanted to show them that I can move around and that I am ready to contribute any way that I can.”
Unlike the NFL Combine, when players run the 40-yard dash it is timed by the scouts and media typically using a stopwatch – or stopwatch phone app – instead of the laser technology that spits out the official times.
Still, most of the players were able to put up solid – yet unofficial – times.
Senior receiver Stacy Coley reportedly clocked a 4.33 time. He did have multiple false starts during his runs, but if he did blaze for the sub 4.4 time – it would prove as a significant improvement on the 4.45 time he ran at the combine.
Coley’s reported time would also make him the fastest of the day.
Of the others who ran, cornerback Corn Elder is said to have run a 4.45; Njoku a 4.49; Lewis with a 4.53; Williams and Jermaine Grace both at 4.58; safety Jamal Carter with a 4.6; Stan Dobard at 4.74 and Al-Quadin Muhammad at 4.78.
Joe Yearby is said to have run a 4.73 – this reporter clocked one of his runs at 4.74 – not a time that scouts come to expect out of running backs.
Still, Yearby has proven himself to be a productive ball carrier and will likely be given the opportunity to prove himself and work his way onto an NFL roster as either a very late draft pick or undrafted rookie free agent.